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Warehouse fire claims Ferrari 458

2010-08-19 06:54

Possibly the finest car Ferrari currently produces – the 458 Italia. Not fireproof though, and not particularly valued by cargo companies either, it would appear.

With e-commerce facilitation and a credit card you can essentially buy anything from anywhere in the world these days.

Most online shoppers don’t even think twice about having their goods lost or damaged in transit.

You’ve specified a priority courier service. Paid the premium. All should be well. Perhaps not.

The dispute between a Ferrari 458 owner and Emirates SkyCargo illustrates a terrifying side to importing goods via air cargo - especially when something goes wrong at the very last moment.

An fire at London’s Heathrow Airport last month engulfed an entire warehouse. In said warehouse was a customised Ferrari 458 Italia – one of the finest performance cars currently available.

This Ferrari’s cabin had been trimmed with a custom Dolce & Gabbana design and materials (hardly the last word in subtle style) worth R800 000.

The owner, who for obvious reasons remains anonymous (who spends M3 money on cabin trim?) wanted his 458 moved from Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, to the United Kingdom. It was a matter of urgency - sea freight would simply be too tardy.

Emirates SkyCargo were commissioned to transport the 1 380kg Ferrari (valued at R3.4m). All went well until the car cleared customs and was awaiting its transporter at Heathrow. As the ensuing fire engulfed the storage facility, it destroyed the 458.

What is fair value?

The 458’s owner was (understandably) mortified, but the sense of loss instantly turned to rage when learning of Emirates SkyCargo’s offer to only pay out R342 000 as a settlement for the destroyed Ferrari. Emirates SkyCargo's calculation was rather sportingly done on the car's mass with two occupants and fully fueled, tallying 1650kg...

International air cargo transportation is regulated by the Montreal Convention. The rulebook says service providers are only liable for the weight value of cargo moved, not value. Emirates SkyCargo’s legal representatives are quite clear in their position.

"The liability of the carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to a sum of 17 Special Drawing Rights per kilogram, unless the consignor has made, at the time when the package was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires."

Obviously the ertwhile 458's owner, sans his Dolce & Gabbana-trimmed Ferrari, disagrees.

"The car wasn't in transit according to your system and documents which showed that the car was already in the UK , and the UK customs received the money and released the car…"

"Also our agent had customs clear the car in the early morning and were waiting on a car transporter to arrive at Heathrow for onward delivery (which we already have all the related documents for), therefore it will not follow the Montreal Convention and it will be under the British Law."

The dispute is still raging and a simple fact of the matter is that future Ferrari UK club events will be a touch poorer without a Dolce & Gabbana-trimmed 458 Italia around.

When flying cars around, rest assured, if something goes wrong you’ll only be compensated for per kilogram, not for the market value. Great if you are moving a Fiat Uno from one continent to another. Less so when it is a Ferrari 458 Italia.

Who should be liable for damages in a case such as this, with an expensive supercar involved? Share your point of view here...

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